Since JL's explanations are so nuts and bolts, it only takes me a few rides on my own to get the exact feeling again consistently, but when I do, it's ready for the next Wednesday ride.
That's what happened last night. We had worked on the walk to trot transition without the popped up nose. I think even she was surprised at how steady Speedy was in the contact. And dare I even use the word confirmed? Okay, probably not confirmed because after each walk break I had to work a little to get him back on the bit, but he was actually steadily on the bit.
And the canter work? Huge improvement. No bucking, no kicking, no need for the whip. I sat a stride or two, put my inside leg just forward of the girth, back leg just behind the girth, and squeezed ever so gently. Speedy's nose is still popping up as he takes that first canter stride, but he was obviously much more balanced as there was no explosion or resistance.
And then there was the lengthening. Once Speedy was working steadily in the contact and was on the bit, she asked me to ask him for just three inches of length. I don't really know what three inches more should look like, but I understood it to mean just go a bit longer. The best part of JL's instruction was that right from the very beginning she showed us that longer does not mean faster. I love that she never let us get faster. She calls them quick steps. No quick steps. Ever. Quick steps are on the forehand and they indicate a loss of balance. [And as a side note, they mean that Sydney is nervous.] As soon as I felt Speedy's steps quicken for even a moment, she had me return to that shorter stride. We did lots of tiny half halts to rebalance him and get his stride even and rhythmical.
There! Do you hear it? Listen for the even footfalls. And after a while, I can hear it. And I can really feel when Speedy starts to quicken his steps. So when he was even and balanced, I asked for longer strides. As soon as he started to hurry, a soft pull of my shoulder blade brought him back to a shorter, more balanced stride.
The whole lesson was beyond perfect. I kept thinking about how steady my legs were and how balanced my seat was. Where's the video camera when you need one? The trick is to be this tension-free upon entering the show ring. My first planned show isn't until the very end of March. I know we are going to be so much better by then!
Hurry up and get here, Wednesday!